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Cory Booker begins 2020 presidential bid with call for ‘ending prohibition against marijuana’

February 1, 2019

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey touted federally legalizing marijuana within moments of becoming the latest Democrat to formally enter the field of presidential hopefuls Friday.

In his first radio interview since officially announcing his plan to challenge President Trump in 2020, Mr. Booker said his proposal for reforming the nation’s criminal justice system if successful would involve “changing our drug laws” and “ending prohibition against marijuana.”

“Black folks, who are no different in their usage rates, or even the dealing rate,” said Mr. Booker, ”... are almost four times more likely to be incarcerated for marijuana. We do not have equal justice under the law.”

The former mayor of Newark, Mr. Booker, 49, made the remarks while appearing on the Tom Joyner Morning Show shortly after he officially announced his 2020 presidential campaign on social media.

“I wanted to come on this show, Tom, because of what you mean to so many people in this country,” he told Mr. Joyner, a nationally syndicated radio host and the founder of the Tom Joyner Foundation, a charitable group devoted to supporting historically black colleges and universities. “I want everybody to know that I am running for president of the United States of America and just really excited to do so.”

More than 21 months until the November 2020 election, Mr. Booker’s announcement added him to an already crowded list of Democrats seeking to keep Mr. Trump from a second term in the White House.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harris of California and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York have announced plans to run in recent weeks, in addition to competitors including Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana; Julian Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio, Texas; John Delaney, a former U.S. congressman representing Maryland; and Tulsi Gabbard, a congresswoman for Hawaii.

Marijuana is prohibited under federal law, though several Democrats and Republicans have pursued reform on Capitol Hill, including Mr. Booker, Ms. Warren, Ms. Harris, Ms. Gabbard, Ms. Gillibrand and Ms. Gabbard, among others.

Mr. Booker has been among the most adamant, however, and his Marijuana Justice Act, a reform bill he proposed in 2017, was the first-ever offered in Congress that aimed to both end marijuana prohibition and expunge prior related convictions.

“It’s time we right the wrongs of federal marijuana criminalization but we’re not going to get there if we don’t stand up and make our voices heard,” Mr. Booker said last month amid rumors of him mounting a White House campaign. “Marijuana prohibition disproportionately affects marginalized communities and that’s simply not right.”

Thirty-three states have passed laws legalizing the medicinal use of marijuana to varying degrees despite federal prohibition, including New Jersey. Ten of those, excluding the Garden State, have separately legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, including seven that allow regulated retail sales.

Mr. Trump previously said he supports letting states decide whether or not to legalize marijuana, and several fellow Republicans have said that he favors protecting states that legalize pot from federal intervention.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, New York Democrat and the new chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said earlier this week that Congress will consider federal marijuana reform “fairly soon.”

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